The Ridiculousness of Chinese Elevators

I hate taking the lift here. There said it – no fairy dusting the truth. Sure, the elevator is a great place to meet neighbours and network. You might see a cute kid or two, maybe a puppy or a kindly educated grandmother. More often than not it’s a grumpy old bugger / buggeress that shuffles in and gives you the stink eye.

If looks could kill.

Lifeinlifts.com hasn’t discussed elevators for quite some time. Let’s break the drought and explore areas of “lift ridiculousness” in May 2019.

Lift Advertising

Air China now flies direct to Johannesburg said the advertisement. The accompanying picture showed Cape Town.

 

 

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Advertising is a funny thing here in China. Things sell best when a celebrity is involved. That’s the same anywhere, isn’t it? Here, the celebrity needs to flash the thumbs up or show the Richard Nixon victory sign. Products and services need to be marketed in a  luxuriant way, showing a life of opulence that awaits when you choose the right brand. The West is just as guilty of this sort of manipulation but you wonder if we’re not stuck in a kind of time warp in China.

Marketing experts used to view their target Chinese audiences as being rather unsophisticated. You wonder sometimes whether their thinking has changed…

 

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Water!  Darling you shouldn’t have…

This advertisement for Ganten water (shot by famous actress Jing Tian and American model Donny Lewis) is ubiquitous in lifts throughout the city. My nine year old daughter cannot get her head around the message and wonders why two oversized water bottles are in the backseat. There are some things a father just can’t answer.

Bumrushers

These are the people whose time is more important than yours. They rush the lift before you exit. The humid weather of May has seen a 50% increase in incidents of elevator bumrushing (China Elevator Bumrush Quarterly Review, 2019).

Loud Conversationalists

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It’s really a no-no. Fourteen other people don’t need to hear you and your husband discussing your grocery shopping list at 120 decibels. Nor do they need to know about the paint you plan to use in the kitchen.

Offensive Odours

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Courtesy of Wikihow.com

Curry beef balls are best enjoyed outdoors, not in transit!  Also, take note Mr. Wang – it is not okay to rip loudly / cut the cheese in an elevator, especially when you’re only three floors from your destination.  Do you think that we can’t hear / smell it?

Mobile DJs

This video clip was filmed on Tuesday, May 21. To the right – me. On the left, a middle-aged woman with a loud smartphone stuffed into her pocket. This really was a compulsory concert. Confined space with nowhere to go!  Talk about a captive audience. The video doesn’t capture just how loud the music really was.

 

 

Summary

Well, May is almost to a close. Yes – the weather and traffic have both been terrible in Guangzhou but the weather and traffic are nothing if not consistent.

You know life is going pretty well when all you’ve really got to complain about is the elevators!

Upcoming blog posts include: Trials and Tribulations of Finding a Kindergarten in China, Unlikely Bedfellows – Sex Markets and Primary Schools, and The Daily Walk of Death.

Thanks for reading. Your support is much appreciated.

 

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But you can understand why they do it – surely!  Baselinemag.com

 

 

The Nibbler on the Roof

Something strange has been going on in Canton. It’s a bit like saying that there’s sand at the beach. Guangzhou is, more often than not, a marathon of the weird and wonderful. A telethon of trials and tribulations.

Someone has been eating on an overpass nearby. This pattern became apparent last September when several empty crisp packets were spotted on a flight of steps at one end of the bridge. Their place was taken by oily plastic containers the following day. He (let’s assume it was a male) had dined out on Sichuan hotpot.

 

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This behaviour continued for a few weeks before the author had an idea – let’s document the detritus left by this scoundrel and put it in a blog! 

One only needs a smartphone to capture these gormandic moments. Days of al fresco dining turned into months of munch and mess. Who was this bold banqueter?  Was he a homeless man with nowhere to go or some hapless soul escaping a tiger wife (a local term for angry woman)? Perhaps the kids got too much so he sought solace in food. He could have been on his way home from the pub?

He left his waste (ladies, aren’t you glad this mystery person is a male?) in exactly the same spot every time. He was nothing if not consistent.

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Pedestrians were forced to navigate a trail of KFC chicken legs, instant noodles, cup cakes, biscuits, spicy beef hotpot, curry beef balls, soup, apples, watermelon peel and oranges, french fries, sandwiches, sausages, and bowls of rice. There is more but my memory is not what it used to be.

 

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Don’t waste rice!

 

He has offended for months without apprehension. It seems likely that his feasting has been occurring during the small hours. The cleaners come at about 8:30am and clean up the rubbish. The area is usually spotless during the day. An idea was to go there one night and catch him in action – surprise him mid-mouthful. Then there was another dilemma – ethics (yes, a killjoy word). Could one go up to him and say:

Hello, Mr. Homeless Person can I interview you for the school newspaper?

Or “Stop right there! I’d like to make a citizen’s arrest!

So, the glutton remains a mystery, though I do have my suspicions. Like Jack the Ripper, albeit this one is a rather harmless rogue, he hasn’t been caught in the act.

 

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Peanuts?

 

Last week, a Bob Marley lookalike was seen acting suspiciously on the bridge. I took a photo of him from behind. He wasn’t caught in the actual act of overpass al fresco but a detective would put him on a list of possible suspects.

 

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And there he goes…

 

So, at this juncture, the nibbler remains a mystery. Who are you sneaky snacker and can you tidy up after yourself?

To be continued…..

 

Easter… by China

7am

Was it really Easter?  There was absolutely no evidence here on the streets in southern China. Perhaps it is an unhelpful distraction. One that the hard-working population didn’t need to be bothered by.

Easter Sunday started out like any other day. A dash across the city in a scene reminiscent of 1980s computer games. Avoid slow drivers and careless pedestrians. Dodge oncoming vehicles and wobbly bicycles.

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8:45am

Someone forgot the key to the classroom. There was a congregation of apologetic parents milling about the entrance. It was damp outside and it was suggested that I begin the lesson in the covered area next to the bikes.

Have a seat” I said. They couldn’t – everything was wet. Thankfully the key was found and the lesson proceeded inside.

11am

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No sun for weeks

It was damp at the next venue. This made the students restless. A large black bug rested on my neck and began sucking blood. What was it?  No-one could identify. Larger than a mosquito and smaller than a fly.

2:00pm

The roads were wet and someone arranged a heavy downpour at the exact moment I needed to exit the car. You can go through several pairs of shoes on a weekend here.

Time for the bottom-ranked class. It’s week eight and they’ve been bad in all aspects of their study and conduct.  There were six kids in attendance but only four books.

Sorry, I forgot my book.”

And “I’ve lost it. Ha ha.”  That cute laugh was the pits.

Had they prepared their English speeches? I asked.  The task was assigned on March the 23rd. Twenty-eight days would be enough to complete such a task. Nope, the pressure of computer games and reality TV binge-watching was too much. Only one girl was ready.

Okay, how about your homework on page 100?  Oh, you haven’t done that either?  Right, it’s punishment time – take out your activity books and begin completing the exercises on page 40.

They hadn’t remembered to bring their activity books. Or their pens.

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It was at this point that I exited the classroom and stood outside. It was still raining. The 25-year-old me would have quit – there and then. Stormed off in a huff. Sulked even. The 40-something me thought about some of the mentally unbalanced people that wander the neighbourhood here. Nutter plus knife – you could imagine the headlines:

Foreign Teacher Abandons Students Moments Before Brutal Slaying and Irresponsible Kiwi Expat Walks Out on Kids – Throws China-NZ Relations Into Turmoil!

I stayed and returned to the lesson. It took a monumental amount of patience not to throw something at them.

4:45pm

Lesson Four (these little darlings were exposed in a previous blog) also had a speech competition. Celia (20 minutes late) refused to budge. Come on, share just a couple of sentences. She hid behind her knees.

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You can’t see me but I can you!

Brother Jeremy invented an entirely new lexicon:

Duplo Mountain in air conditioner” and “Pressure from the Carrot family brought problems with young.”  Deep, though he couldn’t clarify what “pervert Peru” was supposed to mean.

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Duplo mountains in the air conditioner!

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I found myself asking – if this is Easter, why does it feel like I’ve entered Hell?

6:20pm

Then a quick trip home to hide easter eggs for my daughters and a cup of coffee. Last year, they fought bitterly over who got more eggs. On Sunday they cooperated and worked together. The egg hunt proved so popular that they made their mother hide the eggs a second time.

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7:30pm

The final lesson was a kindergarten level class. Thank heavens the kids were good tonight. Each kid received a little egg. The eggs rolled off the table and under the chairs. One girl lost hers and enlisted a number of the parents to search for the missing item. It became a real life egg hunt.

There were tears when her helpers came up empty-handed.

8:45pm

Dreams of neck massages, hearty dinners, and an ice-cold beverage.

9:15pm

Home to Peppa Pig reruns and poorly edited English newspapers.

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Spot the typo

11:45pm

Homework completed!  No, not mine.

Postscript

Did you have a wonderful Easter holiday?  Did the Easter bunny visit your home?  What kind of stories do rabbits like best?  Ones with hoppy endings!

Thanks for reading. Your support is much appreciated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dumbo for Dummies (A Chinese Cinematic Experience)

Ah, the movies in China. Flashing lights, suspense, excitement, funny smells, and sound effects – and that’s before the film has even started!

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There’s a cinema a mere stone’s throw from Block Six (our building). It’s often empty and one feels a sense of “social responsibility” to attend such a venue if only to delay its inevitable demise. Many expats now avoid this form of entertainment due to the peculiarities of movie-going in China.

Frodo Baggins (Lord of the Rings) was no match for the afternoon sun when the cinema door opened. Liam Neeson got drowned out by audience chatter like some hapless politician. We’ve observed Minions (Despicable Me) being sworn at and, most surprisingly, Darth Vader being interrupted by a man on his mobile phone. Who’d have thought?

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Darth Vader in happier times

Darth Vader: “I’m altering the deal, pray I don’t alter it “

Uncouth man: “Lao Xiong, I’m in the cinema watching Star Wars!  Yes, it’s really good though I can’t understand what they’re saying! Tonight?  Yes, I’ll meet you for dinner at 7pm”

Once, the Chinese subtitles were out of sync with the (Western) actor’s voices, confusing many and leading to an audience walkout. We had the remaining 90 minutes to ourselves that day. Bliss.

A Dog’s Way Home, a fluffy family film about a dog finding its way home, was attended by four people (my daughter and I, plus an elderly Cantonese couple who talked loudly throughout). Recent cinematic experiences had seemed okay so we decided to see…

Dumbo (2019)

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Dumbo’s long-suffering mother

There was a choice of Dumbo or the second Lego Movie. We chose the former. Surely there couldn’t be anyone attending the theatre on a Friday morning (it was the Qingming Festival too). Well, there was a good-sized crowd including a former student who bellowed my name and drew everyone’s attention to the presence of a foreigner.

The movie started and we (daughter and I) had the entire fourth row to ourselves.  Pure heaven. Late arrivers were being ushered to their seats in different rows.

The Dumbo movie was 15 minutes in when a middle-aged staff member walked towards us, torch in hand. Perhaps she’d spotted us eating snacks from home. No, she was a solo movie-goer and that wasn’t a torch. It was an iPhone. Perhaps she was seated in our row. Maybe she was sitting right next to me despite the six other EMPTY seats available. She crashlanded in her seat, employed my drink holder for her Pepsi and her drink holder for the popcorn. There was also a faint whiff of body odour. No, I’m not being nasty.

Darn it.

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Deep breaths…

She laughed, slurped, squirmed, wriggled, jolted upright, and at one point turned abruptly to stare at us. It was just like being in economy class.

The movie was engaging. Monkeys, snakes, clowns, a one-armed man (Colin Farrell), a very short man (Danny DeVito), an Oscar winner (Michael Keaton) and plenty of exquisite set designs. Woman-with-glasses was forgotten for the next 40 minutes until she started checking her phone. The iPhone’s glow was more obvious than Dumbo’s ears.

Suddenly, a restless toddler stood up from behind and whacked the woman’s head! Triumph!

Karma they say is a… breath of fresh air!!

Ratings (out of 10)

Dumbo: 8.0

Audience behaviour: 6.5 (Well done Guangzhou!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas in China – 2018

How do the Chinese celebrate Christmas?

Well, they go to work or school as usual. Some might wear a Santa hat and others might give a small gift or attend a Christmas Eve event somewhere around the city. Some lucky souls get the day off if they work for a foreign company or Western consulate.

Christmas really is an excuse for the marketers to sharpen their knives and target the growing middle class with their disposable income.

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How do Chinese kids regard Christmas?

“Western Countries have Christmas because China has the Chinese New Year.”

– Bernard, 8

“Father Christmas was born on Christmas Day.”

– Yoyo, 9

“Our teacher says we’re not allowed to celebrate Christmas because it’s a Western festival!”

– Kevin, 10

“I hate Christmas because it’s not a Chinese holiday”

– Damon, 5

A matter of religion

As foreign guests in China, we’re not allowed to discuss (or promulgate) political views or religion. It’s a little difficult to discuss the matter of Jesus with the students.

“KJ, can you tell us a little bit more about Jesus?”  A child might ask.

“Um, er, perhaps you’d better ask your parents. They will probably be able to explain things better” I answer.

Play them some music instead

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“Feliz Navidad” (Jose Feliciano) is a popular song to teach. Students have trouble with the second line but then most Westerners do too. Go on – can you tell me what comes after Feliz Navidad?  Prospero…

Michael Buble does a fine version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. The horn section enters suddenly within the first minute – guaranteed to wake any sleepers. Justin Bieber’s version is also surprisingly catchy.

How has Christmas changed in China over the years?

In 2000, I lived out in the sticks somewhere in Hubei province. There was little evidence that Christmas even existed. The kindly Education Bureau put on a lavish Christmas Eve party for about ten westerners living in the city. We ate great Chinese food. The section chief wandered over to our table and wished us a “Merry Crimmus!”

The next day we bought a couple of live chickens from the local market and invited them for dinner.

In Guangzhou, we had about three Christmases with members of the Australian Consulate. This was great fun as there was always good shiraz at these parties. The carpet was white. The stains took an age to remove!

A Cockney mate hosted us at his place for a number of years. We played Monopoly and listened to Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” (repeatedly). In 2008, we even got served Brussels Sprouts!  Can you imagine the excitement?

In 2011, inside a 4-star American hotel restaurant, the food was as cardboard as the surroundings. It appeared to cater to young Chinese lovers who treated Christmas as a romantic occasion.

A party was held in an old colonial-style villa (2013). The food was exceptional that year but the highlight was the old Chinese lady that danced voraciously to “Gangnam Style”.

We’ve had Christmas at our apartment the past couple of years. Stragglers of all shapes and sizes have appeared. You can order a turkey from a number of places and even get cranberry sauce to go with it. Plum pudding is still a trifle (ho ho – a pun!) difficult to find as is dry bubbly. However, it’s almost as good as being at home.

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A smorgasbord of nationalities share one thing in common – food
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Eating Christmas cupcakes – pure bliss!

And, Guangzhou’s weather is always good on December 25th.

Shopping

 

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Inspiring isn’t it?

 

Some supermarkets sell every product Christmassy. You’ll pay for it though. Most supermarkets cater to the local market and sell chocolates and fruit. Yawn.

So from all of us here – the accountants, cleaners, marketers, publicists, rabbits, and writers – we’d like to wish you all a very Merry Lifeinlifts Christmas!

Oh yes – there’s a free chocolate fish if you can tell me the second line of Feliz Navidad!  I know it – but do you?

Canton Digest – A Collation of Oddities

Here’s a little collection of oddities for your weekend. Something to take your mind off the Christmas rush. These are events that may occur to anyone foreign-looking in China during a typical week. It’s never a dull moment.

Gweilo

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Image courtesy of https://alchetron.com/Gweilo

This is a rather nasty little Cantonese term which translates to foreign devil / ghost. The locals don’t usually mean any harm by it and there are times when it doesn’t really matter. But if you’re having a bad day and someone calls you Gweilo, you can muster up your best Cantonese rebuke and say:

Now come on mate, that’s uncalled for

 

Bananas in Pajamas

There are times when you may wish you’d walked, or taken public transportation to a destination. Car parks are hard to come by in many cities – especially one with over 14 million people. An attendant will direct you to a narrow spot in the corner. Sometimes you might need to reverse around corners and over humps, bumps, and curbs to successfully park your vehicle.

One young fellow assisted me to a park and proceeded to give instructions (despite my car having side cameras).  Fully aware of his value, he placed one arm inside my open passenger window and helped himself to a pre-lesson banana.

“I’m having this, okay?”

He wondered off grinning at my open-jawed expression. If a half-rotten banana can guarantee me a car park on Wednesdays then I’ll be bringing him a bunch of Dole’s finest next week.

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A picture can paint a thousand words…

 

Shout, Shout, Let it All Out

A good friend of mine was inside a university campus waiting for his lesson to begin. He was on the phone to his father back in Canada. He heard some shouting in really bad English and turned around to see what the kerfuffle was all about. Lo and behold, a man was addressing him in very loud, aggressive English:

“Hey you!  You come China!  You American, you Russian?  Hey! Hey!”

He took off down the road trying to avoid the rambunctious character who was drawing attention from onlookers and passersby. My friend’s father was growing concerned:

“Are you alright son?”

Their conversation was further interrupted: “Hey, you!  You speak England?  Hey!”

“Yes Dad,” he answered calmly “this is a very regular occurrence in China.”

 

Duck Tongues

A lesson finished and we piled back into the lift. One mother was carrying a strange bowl of something.

They’re duck tongues” she said. “Would you like to try one?”  She seemed pretty insistent. Was she trying to shock?  I obliged her and tried one.

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They were rather stringy but had quite a good, gamey, flavour. If you’re interested in importing duck tongues to your local market, let me know on:

youvegottobecrazy@outofyourmind.com

 

Bin Lickers

Eddy is a four year old. He learns English with the big kids (the five and six year olds). His name used to be spelt Eddie but his father hated the last three letters and its reference to death. Eddy regularly makes baby sounds during class and has a penchant for wiggling his bottom at others. He has stated a taste for dog sh*t (his words, not mine) when the class was asked to name their favourite foods. He outdid himself on Monday night with a lunge towards a rather full rubbish bin (trash can). Not content to merely touch, he proceeded to lick the bin’s rim and squeal in delight.

What is there to do but shake one’s head.

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What could be naughtier or nicer?

 

Rabbit Update

Due to the large number of queries about Rachel Rabbit’s health, we can confirm that she is still alive and well in Guangzhou city. This writer was approached by family members seeking permission to “do the deed” and rub out Rachel in time for Christmas dinner. It took one look into her hopeful eyes to decide that the execution would be delayed. Well,  until the next time she misbehaves…..

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The rabbit was well and alive on Friday

I hope you enjoyed this little collection of snippets from southern China. Please leave a message below or spread the love and share this site.

Many thanks for reading!

 

 

Sunday “Bloody” Sunday

Hello dear reader, how was your Sunday?  Did you get up early to attend church or a mosque? Did you go for a run or play with the kids?  Were you nursing a king-sized hangover in bed?  Perhaps you had a strong cup of tea and read a book…

Sundays here (for this writer) include five lessons and a lot of driving. As a dear Canadian friend, Mr. Hill, likes to say “there’s never a dull moment here.”

I’ve decided to chronicle the events of Sunday, October the 21st 2018. Perhaps you can compare your day with mine. What were you doing at 9am, 2pm, 8pm?

8:45am – Inner Ring Road (en route to the first lesson)

A bronze coloured taxi is driving erratically along a four-lane highway. Behind him (yes a him) on the right was a silver Toyota Corolla. To the taxi’s left – a large white bus. I am following 100 metres behind them. The taxi, as slow as a turtle (and without indication), moves into the path of the Corolla. The Corolla brakes quickly to avoid a collision. The taxi then moves to his left and, by a whisker, misses the bus. The bus driver, angry at such vehicular idiocy, brakes, and blasts his loud horn. He then accelerates, overtaking the taxi. It’s revenge time as the bus brakes in front of the bronze taxi and proceeds to drive at 30 kilometres per hour (in an 80km/per hour speed limit).

10am – Rich People’s Garden

Because you two have been so well behaved, I’ll take you out to a 5-star restaurant tonight” the mother announces.

Mummy, can we have Coke or Sprite?”  Young Billy asks.

Billy, your Mum drives a Maserati and your Dad something equally expensive. You and your sister go to the most expensive school in the city. You have a bunch of houses. You holiday at luxury European resorts. Of course you can have a Coke – heck, why not just buy the restaurant?

11:30am – East Wind East Road Compound

There is a presentation involving menus. Miss Y, as we’ll call her, is offering such delicacies as sheep salad (shrimp salad) and roast kitchen leg (roast chicken leg), while Baozha Tou (translates into Afro hairstyle or literally ‘explosion head’) Master B, offers brown knees (brownies) and an A/C meal (a set meal). It’s a joy to watch eight year olds producing menus of such good quality. Mistakes aside, they’re pretty good with English and all scored well. That is apart from one lazy boy who was curiously absent from class.

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Promoting the benefits of kitchen meat

1pm – Subway Sandwiches

appetizer beef bread breakfast

Subway is Subway anywhere in the world it seems. A few menu changes here and there but still of a good standard. There is no queue at this branch. Two Russian girls are playing with the soda fountain, refilling their cups time and again. Value for money. I hope they can get to the bathroom in time. A local man, halfway through his sub, has wandered up to the counter to ask a question. Lettuce is spilling all over the counter and he is speaking with his mouth full. This would explain the mayonnaise droplets falling on to the stack of clean trays by the cash register. Thankfully I’m taking away.

Catshit Coffee (that’s the translation sorry) – the Indonesian coffee chain seems to have moved out of the mall and a newly named Offee and Co. (where’s the C?) seems to have opened. Their watery coffee wasn’t particularly nice last time so I ordered a latte coffee from Subway. What could go wrong?

Mental note: never ever order coffee from Subway at the East Wind East branch again.

3:10pm – Community Centre for Societal Harmony and Egalitarianism

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Naughty boys play with walking frame during break time.

The students in my third lesson have just returned from a short break. Laughter erupts and then suddenly stops. I don’t understand. I’d said something vaguely funny. We were about to learn the meaning of sarcasm and sarcastic laughter when I realise they’re not laughing at me and that the short figure moving behind me isn’t a student. It’s a man with Downs Syndrome. He walks about the classroom. Stops to pick up and inspect my lesson plan book, then my textbook. He gives me a puzzled look so I say “ni hao” to him. He responds in kind and walks out. What a bizarre episode. In 18 plus years of teaching, I’ve seen pretty much everything. That was a first.

There is a centre nearby that houses people with various mental conditions. This chap was friendly but there have been reports of people with psychotic tendencies going on knifing rampages from time to time. The results are never good. Better lock the door next time in case someone else turns up with more sinister intentions.

4pm – the drive home

This is like playing a bad Commodore 64 computer game from the 1980s. I’m Player One. People are jumping out in front of my car at regular intervals. Motorised bikes are heading in the wrong direction. Trucks are behaving like sports cars, Candy Crush Saga-playing pedestrians walk blindly out on to the road and cyclists haven’t yet learnt to ride in a straight line.

The game would be called “Chaos in the Car East“.

6:10pm – Block Seven, balcony of the 11th floor apartment

Teacher, you smell bad” says the five year old boy.

No Kyle, that’s your own sweat you can smell,” says his mother “you’ve been running around downstairs don’t forget!

Aw cripes, do I smell that bad? I’ve been on my feet all day. I head home and check with my wife. She’s blunt. I can count on her for honesty.

No, all I can smell is your cologne.” she says.

Phew.

7:15pm – Military Hospital

It’s very dark here but not cold. This will be the last lesson of the day. Two orderlies are pushing a wheelchair and patient towards the same building that is the teaching venue. A child walks past and stares at the patient, as does someone else. That’s a bit rude isn’t it?  A patient should be given some privacy/dignity, no matter what physical state they’re in.

I steal a glance as I pass them. The patient is extraordinarily stiff and pale. He’s wearing pajamas and he’s a…. dummy!  How weird.

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The Dummy. Where is he going?

I retell this story to one of the parents, a doctor at this hospital. He points to a tall, thin object in the corner. It’s covered by a cloth. The kids are avoiding the area until someone pulls off the sheet to reveal a human skeleton!

jack o lantern on grass

It’s not even Halloween yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

China’s Retro Funparks

Do you do kitsch?  How about just plain weird?

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Welcome to the early 1990s. Jiang Zemin is the president and China is still rather closed to the outside world (especially after certain events in 1989). Some people are still wearing Mao suits and you’re considered rich if you own a bicycle, a refrigerator, a TV, and possibly a microwave oven to put into your work-unit designated apartment.

Think about what you were doing in 1992. Was Kenny G’s music playing in the background?

Jump forward 26 years. Don’t maintain, paint, or upgrade any of the equipment. Hire a hack English translator and you’re set to enter Luhu Children’s Amusement Park!  It’s nothing if not a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours during a national holiday.

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Out of order (thankfully)

Mooncake Day (Mid-Autumn Festival) had just been and gone and a large number of denizens left the city for this long weekend. The negatives of public holidays included appalling traffic jams but it also meant that little gems like the Luhu Amusement Park were neglected. Great for those who want to avoid crowds and the (sometimes) boorish behaviour exhibited by certain sections of society.

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Cheer up Thomas!

There were lots of rides to choose from with varying levels of suitability. A toddler isn’t allowed to go on the bumper cars or the roller coaster. An eight year old no longer finds merry-go-rounds as alluring as she did when aged five.

So, as the sun emerged from the clouds, the temperature rose into the mid-thirties (celsius) and the air became humidly thick, we ticked off a range of unusual rides. One buys a card from a booth, charges it up and swipes it at each ride – a surprisingly modern feature at such a dilapidated park. The pirate ship was out of order (thank goodness as these things aren’t quite so much fun in your forties) but the roller coaster was operational.

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You want me to fit into that?

We’d been to L.A. Disneyland and Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens. This ride looked non-threatening. Just as well as the seating wasn’t designed for tall westerners.

My travelling companion is eight years old, she is the child of my current marriage

(Paul Simon, Graceland, 1986 – paraphrased lyrics, 2018)

My contorted frame resembled a basketball player flying economy. Miss K sat comfortably. It was built for short people. The ride lurched into action and reluctantly made its ascent. The ensuing jolt was like being rammed from behind by a large vehicle.

With any good roller coaster, the fun lies in the tension of the unknown. The train (designed to look like a long, garishly-painted plastic dragon) hurtled downwards and round a sharp right bend before travelling 15 metres and navigating a sharp left.

This swift move rammed my knee into the safety bar. Ouch. The speed reduced and the second lap began. Cue jerky car-crash movements all over again. The 15 metre dash ended in another smashed knee and a cry of pain. Miss K thought I had been afraid. No darn it!  I was feeling old and buggered.

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Yeah – so be warned!

An adjoining waterpark complete with exciting waterslides and other kiddy toys sat empty. Did someone pee in the pool?

Only two of us played on the bumper cars. Plenty of people came to watch the foreign monkeys and a large queue had formed by the time our turn was up. Perhaps we should have charged a commission for bringing in the punters.

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Translates into: No running or chasing

The girls rode on some other odd little rides (they were happy enough so that was the main thing) before we discovered an indoor fun park hidden in the corner. It was an air-conditioned too and it kept the girls occupied forever till the afternoon showers brought a bunch of other kids inside. Then they played for another hour or so.

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View from inside indoor play park

Groan.

To break up the tedium, it had been fun to observe the crabby middle-aged attendant. She had a plum indoor job while her younger colleagues suffered in the scorching sun. She slept on her desk, watched a Hong Kong soap opera, scolded two kids for throwing plastic balls, opened the door, closed the door, went outside and disappeared for 20 minutes (thus allowing people to enter the play area for free), returned and went back to sleep again (she was awoken by a bucket of balls that joyously rained down upon her back).

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A neverending afternoon…

What on earth did parents do before the invention of smartphones? How did they cope with the tediousness of it all?  I guess they… spoke to other parents, did the knitting or the crossword?  Someone threw a heavy object at someone else and it all ended acrimoniously. We took our cue to leave.

The girls had a wonderful afternoon of kid fun and it hadn’t cost much. The roller coaster alone at Tivoli Gardens had almost bankrupted us.  My wife remarked:

“They couldn’t have given a toss about staying in a 5-star hotel, this is all they wanted to do”

Guangzhou (and many parts of China) still has these cultural oddities in operation. Kids love the old parks and they remain popular, even though there is a very impressive amusement park located in the south of the city. It is doubtful that the park would have been so quiet during a regular weekend.

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Typhoon Mangkhut

Well, we’ve just endured a super typhoon!

Mangkhut (or Mangosteen in English) has come and gone, leaving behind a trail of debris and broken trees. We had been expecting it for a few days and there was a sense of mild panic as people cleaned supermarkets out of water and instant noodles. It was almost a case of the boy who cried typhoon. Everyone got ready for Typhoon Seahorse (2016) which was little more than a puff of wind. The same happened in 2017 with another oddly-named gust. This time was a little different.

Calm before the storm

There was a slight feeling of tension as the streets became noticeably quiet in the hours leading up to Mangkhut. This unease was not helped by reports of damage in Guam and the Philippines. It was hot, a stuffy humidity that was exhausting and sweat-inducing. Saturday seemed to be okay, even though many events and lessons were cancelled across the city.

Sunday morning

There was a light breeze as I headed to my 9am lesson. Thirty minutes later and 12kms across town the wind had picked up. Leaves flew, trees swayed, and lobby doors were near impossible to open. By 10am I’d learned that some of my Sunday lessons had been postponed. The roads had fewer cars and council workers had felled the creaky trees in anticipation of a Mangkhut onslaught.

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12pm (home)

It was time to watch a downloaded game of international rugby. The All Blacks, the world’s greatest rugby team, had hosted the South African Springboks in Wellington – New Zealand’s windiest city. Oh, the irony. It had been calm in Wellington on Saturday night and we were getting a year’s supply of wind within twelve hours.

I paused at the twenty minutes mark – the All Blacks were teaching the Springboks (or Boks for short) a lesson on free running rugby. They always did this these days.

It was time to observe the wind and rain howling around outside our 35th floor apartment. Windows in our compound’s newer, vacant apartment blocks raucously opened and slammed shut as the wind dashed from left to right and left again.

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You can’t actually hear the wind but man was it blowing!

News reports kept us updated as to the typhoon’s expected arrival in the city. The typhoon could have been Queen Elizabeth II for all the media attention it was getting. My daughters were enjoying running about the apartment as the cleaner (who braved atrocious weather to get here) worked quickly to finish her tasks and return home.

More rugby – the All Blacks were now trailing the Boks as the game began to mirror the typhoon outside.

3pm

Father-in-law (Martin) was in the kitchen preparing dinner early. Mangkhut was due at our place in two hours. While the typhoon would feast on trees, cars, street lights, and building materials, we’d have a dinner to eat and he’d be safely home.

Reports from Hong Kong and Shenzhen spoke of widespread damage and flooding. My oft-paused rugby game had recommenced and was by now a real nail-biter. Players were getting battered in brutal tackles, there was blood, guts, and passion as the Boks held out the All Blacks attack.

 

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The good guys always win

 

The rugby was paused yet again to allow for the preparation of water and recharging of mobile phones in case of power and water cuts.

4pm

It has taken four hours to get to this point. There are only two minutes remaining in the rugby (games are 80 minutes in length – this one had been paused five times). A  South African player had been yellow carded for naughty behaviour. That meant one less player on the field for the Boks and a massive advantage for New Zealand. We’d got this game won.

Smash – something had fallen over on the balcony. Think of a choir of energetic whistlers and this might sound like the wind outside. Someone’s t-shirt had just flown past our balcony. Socks and undies littered the garden below.

Darn it – despite 100 opportunities the All Blacks have managed to lose the game. That’s the first time this year.

5pm (Sounds of sirens)

Martin had taken longer than usual to finish cooking. Now he wanted to be dropped home. He had to be kidding right? This was the typhoon’s zenith. Windspeeds were now over 100kms per hour. No way. Things were flying through the air. Big things. There was a tree floating in the swimming pool downstairs. We’d be toast if we ventured out in this weather. I refused. And the noise…

 

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A great time for board games

 

8pm 

The wind had abated somewhat. There were cars on the highway but it still rained heavily. Martin suggested that this be a good time to head home. The road was littered with rubbish from all walks of life. A showroom carpet was bunched up in the middle of the road. A bus sat abandoned at a lonely stop. Branches, plastic, wood, and bicycle parts lay strewn along the route. Trees died thoughtful deaths – blocking two car lanes rather than three, falling in ways that still allowed motorists to pass.

We probably shouldn’t have been out there. The rain bucketed down with force and the wind was violent in exposed places. The road was flooded near his house. My large car wobbled like jelly when it waited at the lights. A truck drove at speed into a large puddle thus saturating a group of people huddled by the roadside. Poor sods.

Aftermath

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Covered parking

 

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Branching out: wood that be a tree?

 

 

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Uprooted and in the dark

 

And that was as bad as it got for us here in Guangzhou. Other places weren’t quite so lucky. Hong Kong took a hammering as did other southern cities. Thousands were evacuated from their homes. The Philippines copped most of it. Much of our city looked worse for wear on Monday morning but by Tuesday (as I wrote this) things were a little cleaner.

 

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The answer my friend is blowing in the wind…

 

Some of you will have experienced much worse (tropical cyclones, earthquakes, tornadoes, snowstorms etc.) but it is with relief that we didn’t have to endure such calamities. It would have made for exciting blog reading had we been in perilous danger but we’ll take safety over Hollywood-style drama any day.

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Occupational Safety – Wave Goodbye to those Fingers!

Earmuffs anyone?  How about goggles?  Would you like a pair of gloves and workboots?

Why let these little annoyances get in the way of a good time?  Just walk past any urban construction site or home improvement-related store and you’ll see it. The free (reckless disregard?) approach to workplace safety. Johnny Qu and Rex Li will be dismantling, welding, nailing and sawing anything from metal to wood to plastic etcetera. Corrosive chemicals might be added to the mix too.

“She’ll be right” demonstrates a typical Kiwi approach to life. It’s not always the most sensible. “One nail will do mate” (when two or three would guarantee quality). This, however, is nothing compared to the stuff we see going on in southern China. Let’s take a look at what must get affected by such laissez-faire behaviour.

The Ears

I’ve never seen a pair of earmuffs on a construction worker. Large construction sites boast about worker safety but it’s the truth. Despite the crash of construction and bash of demolition, most workers wander about the site with ears fully exposed. Jackhammers are some of the loudest tools around, only outdone by a jet engine, gunshot, rocket, or firecracker!  Yet jackhammer operators and bystanders allow their ears to soak up all the available noise. I’ve included a decibel chart to put the jackhammer’s dulcet tones into  a wider perspective:

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Wait, do you mean that exposure to 120 decibels for 10 hours a day might actually cause long-term hearing impairment?  Yikes.

Note that “normal” conversation sits at 60 db on this chart. The Cantonese I know rarely ever have “normal” conversations. The chart could be adjusted to reflect local conditions – 110 dbs might be more accurate. Babies are loud – Cantonese are often louder.

The Eyes

Sparks will fly baby when I set my eyes on you…..   It sounds like a hard rock song from the 1980s. It might very well be the soundtrack to a movie about welders. No safety goggles in sight (excuse the pun) as their eyes sit mere inches from blindness. One wants to go up and educate them about the importance of workplace safety but this would be akin to a conversation between the English and Americans on the rules of cricket.

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Xiaomin was delighted with his new safety equipment

Fingers

In many countries, butchers and fishery workers use mesh gloves to protect against knife slippages. No such luck here. It brings new meaning to the term fish fingers.

Feet

Do you really think a pair of sneakers (or leather slip ons) is going to protect your toes from the weight of a concrete slab?  Workers (or better yet, construction managers) – buy yourselves some steel-capped boots!  Now that’s foot for thought, isn’t it?

Head

Possibly the safest part of the human body. Or is it? Most construction workers get a pretty yellow or red helmet to wear on site. The robustness of these helmets is unknown to the casual observer such as me. The worrying thing is that I’ve seen similar looking helmets in toy shops.

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Cue soundtrack music….

Official Stats?

This gets tricky with the whole truth, lies, and damn statistics deal. A workplace law was passed in 2002 focusing on certain, risky industries but there were (like any new law) gaping holes that were highlighted by several large-scale workplace catastrophes. A 2014 amendment has brought the death rate down (if the stats are actually accurate) and foreign-owned companies are under pressure to comply. It’s bad publicity if you lose half your staff in one morning.

Life in Lifts.com reports only what it sees.  Large-scale building sites were not visited during the writing of this blog. That said, several small-scale operations were observed in action.  Jackhammer teams sans earmuffs, relaxed carpenters with circular saws, sparkly sidewalk welders, the wet market pork hackers, maskless maintenance men carrying buckets of strong-smelling (liquid) chemicals…..

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